Does Whiskey Have An Expiration Date?

Well, we did it. We finally got to the does-whiskey-have-an-expiration-date day of this pandemic. If you can practically feel Google judging you when you type "does alcohol expire" into your search bar, then search no further — we've got you covered. Grab all those half-full bottles of liquor (and that Frangelico that's never been touched) out of the cupboard and line 'em up: it's time to play a little expiration date bingo.

The good news here is that, unopened, whiskey lasts forever. Well, maybe not forever, but it will probably outlive you, which is basically like forever. Before you get into an existential tailspin over that one, let's talk about what it means for alcohol to "go bad." The first thing to keep in mind is that it depends on the alcohol in question; wine can be corked, beer goes flat, and Bailey's Irish Cream does not, in fact, last forever (via Binwise). The simplest explanation is that wines, beers, and liqueurs have volatile ingredients in them, like sugar and dairy, while liquors (vodka, rum, tequila, and our old pal, whiskey) are more stable.

Not everything gets better with age when it comes to alcohol

Though you might be confused by bottles of whiskey with adjectives like "aged" or boasting how many years old they are, the truth is that all the good, healthy aging of liquor happens before that liquid gets bottled. According to Healthline, alcohol is made by using yeast to ferment the mash (the base that liquor is made out of), and then distilling that liquid to smooth out any imperfections. What's left goes into a barrel, and that's where the "good" aging occurs (when the liquid pulls flavors from the type of wood cask it's in, for example). But once that liquor makes its way into the bottle, it's done all the aging it needs to do.

Binwise suggests that there are really only three factors that will affect the flavor or quality of your alcohol: light, temperature, and oxygen. Think of your home bar like a little plant nursery — you've got to get that balance right, or your plants will die. Keep your unopened whiskey out of direct sunlight and in cooler temperatures, and it will live forever. Once opened, however, be aware that the oxygen will eventually degrade the flavor of your whiskey, and after a year or two of being open, it will "go bad." The good news here? That only means it won't taste like it should, not that you can't drink it. Bingo!